She is quite a deadly creature. She is a source of anxiety for brides to be. She is an object of terror for the girl’s mama and family. She has dominated the scene for several generations. She has successfully maligned the image of all mamas’ who have boys and continues to maintain the image steadfastly. This is unfortunate. For, there could be good mamas too but they fade away in front of the bad models. I have no statistics to prove which type of mama is in the majority but even if they are in a minority they hit the mind with their ferociousness. Even if one bride is burnt the stereotyped image of the Lalita Pawar mother-in-law threateningly springs out of our collective unconscious. The stereotype is menacingly deep rooted and not without a reason.
It is time she disappeared. It is time we got rid of the terrible stereotype. It is time mamas who have boys take up the challenge to change this nasty image of theirs. I know many mamas who are very liberal and friendly with their daughters in law but still may get misunderstood due to this stereotyped image. For, many times the girls/brides too come with preconceived notions about their husbands’ mama which may have been drilled into their heads by their mothers and other significant people. Such prejudices and biases mar their perception and their sense of fair judgement. They may highlight each and every little quirk of the mama in law and interpret it in bad light. The mama in law thus can also become a victim of the new daughter in law and her prejudices.
It takes two to build a relationship. Since the young bride is just starting her new life the onus of change lies with the senior lady- the mother in law. She must change her attitudes and her expectations from her daughter in law and her family. She must be the matured one and show more sense. She must act as the guide to newly wedded couple and help them grope with life. She must try to be a part of the solution of the new couple’s life’s problems rather than being part of the problem. She must definitely not be the problem!
The bad models of the boys’ mamas are really terrible. The ones I know are grossly dominating and heartlessly ruthless in their demands from the brides and their families. They have too many expectations that are not only unrealistic but also criminal. She has desires that can never be fulfilled and therefore remain as fantasies. If she does not succeed in fulfilling her wishes she strives even harder and comes on with a vengeance which only spreads unhappiness and creates destruction all around. But she never gives up her demands for her ego is more important than anything else in the world. Even the new couple’s happiness is not the point of concern- it is ‘she’ and ‘only she’ that matters to her. After all she has given birth to the boy she declares! She is aggressive and authoritarian in nature. She may also be an unhappy frustrated creature. The typical mama in law is quite an unmatched pathological character worth discussing in psychological academic circles.
In modern times when young girls have different dreams and values about marriage the typical ‘mother-in-law’ is an anathema. She had better wither away gracefully and die a natural death. Or else she will be murdered. It is in her interest that if she wants to survive and thrive in relationships she must change her expectations, attitudes and values. She must live her own life and allow the young ones to live theirs. She must not try to live her life through them. The younger generation looks for equality, respect, dignity and companionship with their husbands and their families. They do not tolerate many things that women of bygone years did in their lives. But the youth should not go overboard with their new found sense of identity and independence. They should learn to balance their personal life values with the good old family values cherished by Indians. The family is after all a wonderful unit and the extended family is equally valuable. But such harmonious living in a family requires clear thinking of a higher order, fair play, emotional maturity and a smart and intelligent handling of relations.
Published in Hitavada Women’s World on October 21 2009